Monday, January 27, 2014

Losing Tom


My first memory of him included my first few weeks as my new job as a youth minister. During the hiring process, someone on that panel's eyes went up when I mentioned I was also a musician and loved worship music. He invited me to consider checking out "testament" , the praise band. 

I was so nervous to check it out. But when I finally did, the welcoming smiles of Tom, Denise, Lana, Barb, Dave, Paul and crew were enough to put me at ease. They were kind, funny, adaptable and made me feel like I had always been a part of the team. 

Tom especially. While Tom could play guitar, he mainly played keyboard for the group. He played much like I do, by ear and chords. But 100x better. 

Both of us tragically Cubs fans, he would call me. "Ray " for Ray Burris. And old baseball player. And I would call him "Bob" for Bob Brenley, who was at the time the Cubs tv announcer who, in my opinion, Tom was a dead ringer for. 

His 2 younger daughters were also in many of the youth activities. And Tom would chaperone many of them. I learned a bit about his recent family history and it was heartbreaking. But you would never know, he was always joyful and full of life. 

He and Kate threw the best parties. And anyone and everyone was invited. They made you feel like you were the cool kids. (I even stole their decorating idea from their 'pub' and have old old family photos all over my dining room. )

He, along with many others from the church were instrumental is helping me with some dental challenges. Initiating it in fact. And the difference that made to my self confidence, I cannot put adequate words to. 

Tom at some point shared his personal music with me. The stuff that he wrote and recorded. Such a gifted musician. And he encouraged me in my own, even helping me record a few songs with his equipment. 

Such a generous, kind gifted soul. I regret not staying in better touch after we moved north. It's something I need to work on in life in general. For his life changed mine in so many big and small ways for the better. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way. 

It's with a heavy heart that the world has had to say goodbye. Heaven has gained an angel. He joins his first wife and daughter. He is at peace at home with Lord. 

He leaves a granddaughter. 4 beautiful daughters. Countless friends. And a community forever changed by his kindness. If only we could all be Toms

My heart and condolences go out to his many loved ones. 

A better friend

Somehow over the past couple of years, I have found it pretty easy to become a bit of a recluse. 

I have had strong groups of support and friendship in the past. People I call up for lunch or a movie or just show up at their house. 

Now I pretty much keep to myself. I miss just "popping by" and being less self conscious about asserting myself to what your needs are. You know, being a good friend. Neighbor. Human being. Etc

I have had a lot of goals roaming my brain for this new year. And they have changed based on circumstances and thought redirection and General ADD tendencies. 

One that keeps coming up is being a better neighbor. Including being a better friend. 

What I don't like about it is imposing myself on others. What I do like is that I know that it will do several things:
1. Create stronger friendships
2. Help me feel more connected In general. To people. My community. Spiritually etc
3. Strengthen and help others. 

So I feel I have made some conscious efforts in this area. And know I can do more and better. 

A few basic things I have learned so far:
1. Act on my impulse. If I think: bake  my neighbor some cookies. Just do it. Right then. No scond guessing
2. While I like to say " let me know if you need anything". No one ever tells you what they need. I need to be specific and direct with offers. I.e can I make you dinner this night. Can you come over for coffee this day. Etc. 
3. There are a lot of things I could do if I just open my eyes and look around!!

What suggestions/ideas do you have to be a better neighbor/friend?

Friday, January 17, 2014


I just finished packing up my Christmas decorations for this year. I love my Christmas decorations and try to leave them up as long as possible, at least until after the epiphany. I packed up the tree, ornaments, all of the stockings, the wrapping paper and the nativity sets.

We have 2 nativity sets at home.

Our first one came from my mother in law the first year we were married. Ceramic Mary Joseph Jesus Angel animals and wise men sit atop our piano these days 

The other is the Little People set Ben received for Christmas last year from my cousin. It was the first Little People anything he ever received so those guys stayed in circulation all year. Mary sits next to crossing guard guy on the LP school bus. 

Since we brought out the ceramic set this year, it has been Bens favorite  "new toy " he will climb up the piano to retrieve each piece one by one and relocate them  to the living room, the counter, his table or wherever he fancied. Maybe a bucket?

Along the way, in the hands of an almost 2 year old we have had a few mishaps of falling and heads breaking off. Baby Jesus lost a hand. The cattle lost his horns. But that's what super glue is for

As he plays with it, we talk to him about it. We tell him who all of the characters are. The "mom"- Mary, the "dad" Joseph, the "baby"- Jesus.  We told him about the shepherds and wise men, and referred to them as their "friends"- trying to keep it at an almost 2 year old level. How the wise men brought him presents. The animals. And how special they all are.

I especially enjoyed watching Ben connect to the "mom-dad-baby" piece of it. Those 3 traveled together everywhere. Sometimes "dad" gave "mom" a kiss. or the "baby". Sometimes the other guys came along too. But always the "family". And those are 3 of the 10 or so words he can say clearly, (mom, dad, and "bay").

It has just been so sweet to have him start to interact with Christmas in this way this year. Yes, presents have been fun. St. Nicholas day too. But this was so heartwarming. To have him interact with the love that is Christmas. The family. The story. The meaning.

To be fair, I am keeping the Little People set out this year. I just can't bear to let it all go away until next year. Its really an all year thing anyway, really. Isn't it?

swept in the tide

 I have a client these days who I relate to in many ways.  Battling with many of the same demons and  internal messages that I do. I feel I learn a lot about myself through their struggle.

Why is it so hard to overcome old messages of:

- you are not important
- you are an afterthought
-you do not belong here
-you are an inconvenience

especially when the reinforcers of those messages are still in your life.

I have been really struggling lately with a few events that have gone on in my family without me. Not so much because they happened. But I was not even invited.

And lately I watch my husband look at my son. I wish I could describe that look. Like he is the only and most precious thing in the world. To be honest I am jealous of that look. Not that I don't get loved on my my own husband, because on do. But because I have yearned for the look my entire life.

And again. I have so much good. My husband counters those messages. And I do not give him enough credit for it. Why do I allow this old garbage to eat me up? It steals my joy.  I get irritable and a kill joy. Bringing others into my sty to wallow with me.

Its not fair to me. And its not fair to others.

So I do I let go of that old crap that keeps coming up.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately,  I have learned that letting go and forgiveness is not a one time thing. I wish it was. It would be so much easier. But it is a constant ebbing tide. There are days it is washed away. And days it is high tide and I am drowning. And I have to learn to swim in it and escape it, lest it washes me away with the current.

I want the feelings to wash away. Not me.

Its important for me to have some anchors when those tides rush in.

* affirming messages. reminding myself what is good.
* gratitude. reminding myself what I have
* faith. reminding myself *whose* I am
* and reaching out to friends who are disconnected from my history.

Establishing those in the good times.